Jace Denmark continued his rich streak of form this morning on the streets around Exhibition Place in Toronto.
The 18-year-old remained in control – just – throughout an action-packed 20-lap Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Toronto but there was plenty of drama in his wake following a late full-course caution which set the scene for a one-lap dash to the checkered flag.
Myles Rowe looked set to extend his lead in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship by following in the wheel tracks of his Pabst Racing teammate, until his closest title rival, Michael d’Orlando (Cape Motorsports), attempted a pass for second place in Turn Eight on the final lap.
Heavy contact cost both contenders a podium finish and allowed DEForce Racing teammates Thomas Nepveu and Dylan Christie to claim second and third.
Denmark started from the inside of the front row of the grid after earning his second Cooper Tires Pole Award in qualifying on Saturday morning. Jagger Jones lined up alongside on the front row with the top two championship protagonists, Rowe and d’Orlando, together on Row Two.
Rowe moved up into second place by the completion of the opening lap, but the top four remained virtually locked together as they inched clear of Nepveu in fifth.
Rowe attempted to make a pass for the lead at Turn 3 on the 13th lap and when that was rebuffed, Jones saw an opportunity to challenge Rowe for second as they exited the tight hairpin turn. Unfortunately for Jones, slight contact with Rowe dislodged his car’s front wing, leaving him an ill-handling car for the remainder of the race.
The incident also served delay to d’Orlando, who proceeded to claim the fastest lap of the race as he strove to make up the deficit to the two Pabst cars.
Then came the final twist of the plot, when d’Orlando’s younger brother, Nicholas, crashed his Exclusive Autosport Tatuus USF-22 in Turn Five to bring out the caution flags.
The damage was cleared with enough time for one final lap of green-flag racing, and while the order at the top remained the same for much of the lap, d’Orlando glimpsed an opportunity under braking for Turn Eight and dived to the inside. The pair made heavy contact at the exit. Both were able to continue, although Nepveu and Christie took advantage of the melee to nip through into second and third.
Both DEForce teammates were delighted, with Nepveu taking his second podium finish of the season and his first in front of a Canadian crowd and Christie finally making his first trip to the podium. Christie also earned the Tilton Hard Charger Award after making up eight positions from 11th on the grid.
D’Orlando and Rowe were able to maintain fourth and fifth, with Jones hanging on in sixth, also with a damaged car.
Denmark’s impressive victory secured the eighth PFC Award of the year for Augie Pabst as the winning car owner. It also moved him into the thick of the title mix.
“I’m really happy to get the win after everything that happened out there. It was a very high-stress race – even more so than usual,” said Denmark. “I’m glad to have gotten it done today, with calculated defending playing a big role. I lost it at the end yesterday so to come back today and get a win is helping us end the season on a high note with only three races remaining. I’m looking forward to Portland.”
Just 25 points now separate the top three contenders with just one weekend of racing remaining on the schedule – a triple-header at Portland International Raceway, in Portland, Ore., in conjunction with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, on September 2-4.
Provisional championship points after 15 of 18 races:
1. Myles Rowe, 346
2. Michael d’Orlando, 323
3. Jace Denmark, 321
4. Jagger Jones, 265
5. Billy Frazer, 229
6. Thomas Nepveu, 221
7. Bijoy Garg, 203
8. Christian Weir, 180
9. Nicky Hays, 172
10. Dylan Christie, 165